- Associated Press - Sunday, February 2, 2014

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - For many servicemen stationed overseas, patience is a virtue. But this old adage is especially true for 24-year-old Thomas Adams, who faced some of the most unforeseeable circumstances imaginable in Afghanistan and triumphed over tribulation.

Adams, an officer for the Belle Fourche Police Department, went to Fort Bliss, Texas with the South Dakota National Guard 235th Military Police Company in February of 2013 for pre-deployment training. After that, the unit was off to Parwan Province, Afghanistan, stationed at Bagram Air Base.

While in Afghanistan, Adams‘ unit worked to provide security for U.S. military personnel, installation, and facilities, and to guard prisoners housed at the base. The unit also trained locals in detainee operations, security, personnel, vehicle searches, and entry control point operations.

“There was a small group that did bailiff and courtyard security, and I did courtyard security,” he told the Black Hills Pioneer (http://bit.ly/1b4gyKz ). “I dealt with local lawyers and judges - mostly adults - with searching, mainly.”

In mid-September, Adams started having severe headaches that he tried to remedy with everything from medication to changing his pillows. Soon his condition worsened and was accompanied by vomiting. So, he went to the emergency room on base.

After a battery of tests, including a CT scan, doctors at Bagram told Adams they’d found a tumor the size of a golf ball on his brain.

“I was emergency airlifted to Germany,” Adams said. “I flew into Landstuhl, and went from there to Homburg, where they did surgery.”

Adams‘ tumor was classified as a benign astrocytoma. Surgery to remove it was successful, and mom Colleen and sister Jessica flew to Germany to be by his side. Adams returned to the states in early November, but his fight was far from over. The surgery to remove the tumor resulted in lack of mobility in his right side, including his right hand, and affected his speech, as well.

So Adams began physical, occupational, and speech therapy at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

“The surgery messed up how I talk,” he said. “So easily the hardest part is teaching my body how to talk again.”

Fortunately, physical therapy has helped Adams regain much of his mobility.

“I get around great now,” he said, adding that he will not have to undergo radiation. “I should return almost to normal with therapy.”

In December Adams left Walter Reed for in-processing in Utah. During that time, he got to take a vacation to see his unit, the 235th Military Police Company, return to South Dakota on Dec. 23, 2013.

“It was so great,” he said. “I loved home.”

Back in South Dakota, Adams also spent time with family, and went to Deadwood for the New Year celebration with friends Wes and Kat McPherson. After vacation, he had to return to Utah to finish in-processing, but is now home in Spearfish for good.

Adams has only been back for one week, but has been spending time volunteering at the police station in Belle Fourche. So does he have plans to join the ranks of the Belle Fourche Police Department again?

“Scott (Jones) is a great chief,” he said. “I would love to patrol for him again.”

Even though there were some dark times, there were also many bright spots in Adams‘ ventures overseas. Living in Afghanistan was sometimes reminiscent of home; the weather was similar to weather in South Dakota. And while some aspects of life overseas proved challenging for Adams, other parts were just downright quirky.

“I missed having options. Just simply being able to choose what I wanted,” he said. “The most interesting part where we were was probably the showers. They had to replace the floors a lot because they were wood. It never made sense to me.”

Adams said he also witnessed some touching moments, like when “a few soldiers gave school supplies to kids” in Afghanistan.

“Seeing other people and how they live, it makes you really thankful,” he said.

But at that time, Adams couldn’t have anticipated just how thankful he’d become by the end of his journey. Of all the lessons he learned, one of the most powerful is that life can turn on a dime.

“Something as simple as speech can leave in a blink of an eye,” he said. “Patience really is a virtue. Anything worth something is worth waiting for.”

___

Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, http://www.bhpioneer.com

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